Creativity and People NOT Process

I’ve just come from 2 very interesting days of Lean Kanban thinking at the Lean Kanban Nordic Conference

Although I got many helpful insights I was left puzzled/perplexed by something and I want to share.

A guest speaker Challenged the “Stop Starting and Start Finishing” theme of the conference which I thought was great. He wanted us to realise that stopping the starting on an enterprise level will affect creativity. It was a bit “controversial” but I was really motivated by what he said.

In addition, to that we had some people who are studying Neuroscience and the Neuroscience of Flow explain to us that our brain rewards us with a seratonin rush when we start something and we like that so we must be aware of it in order to “control” it. (….”why does your brain rewards mechanism sabotage finishing stuff?”… “our brain loves working on Autopilot, … what can we do to switch it off” )

Hmmmm! … I’m no expert but this doesnt sit too well with me.

Heres why…

  • Do you think we could have evolved as human beings by shutting down this sub-consciuous/autopilot? Do you honestly believe that we evolved solely on Logical reasoning and routine? … I don’t.

So can we be better at flow thinking AND be creative?. Yes, I think so if we respect that they are 2 seperate entitles.

I watched a BBC Horizon Documentary last year about creativity.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VWeWYxrX3UA

Creative thinking happens when we break routines,when we are exposed to new things, when we train in divergent thinking and when we create space for ourselves and our Subconscious to interrupt our Prefrontal Cortex.

When we decide to do things Kanban is brilliant at helping us do that … see the flow and value BUT we must have space outside of our routines/process to think creatively.

So what has all of this to do with Management/Leadership you wonder?.

Simple: We have to stop thinking that Lean/Kanban and Agile are going to solve all our problems for us, make us more creative and innovative. They won’t. People will.

I am making an assumption here but I think this is what our Stop Starting Start finishing Challenger was trying to tell us.

How do we help people be more creative, support divergent thinking and allow them the space to gain insights in their everyday?. I think we need to snap out of this notion that Agile and Lean is the answer ….. They are excellent methods to help us organise things and see value …. but ultimately it is us as human beings who come up with ideas.

Outside of our plan and routine … we need SPACE to be creative .. and that is seperate to the methods we use for Flow and Value.

What are you doing as a leader to help create the space?

 

Finally making a difference – True Honest Leadership

I have been a Line manager for almost 7 years now. All the while I felt I have been doing a good job … my Dialog Results showed that I was doing reasonably well. I was and am ethusiastic and I tend to “get the job done”.

Over the passed two years I have been on a journey, the same journey as my company which is going through a large scale agile and Lean transformation.  I started to read about the “new”  Leadership. True Honest and Wholesome Leadership.  It seemed alien at first as it didnt really sync with what was going on around me. But I perservered.

In the last month or so I have been going around to different people and teams within our organisation to talk about why its important to build a SW Craftmanship Culture and encouraging people to feel very proud of being a Software Developer (sometimes our SW developers feel a bit overwhelmed by our very senior experts in both systems  and test.

Without any mandate from on high and without having to link what I was saying to “Strategy”, or get approval from a manager above me,  I just started talking about  the future, why software was very important (We are traditionally Hardware company) and what we could do now to plant some seeds for later on.

It has been a hard slog and it has taken some time and energy on my part. I kept asking myself  “why do I bother?” … “Am I wasting my time?”.

I wasn’t. Last friday night while sitting in a the audience of a comedy show I received an email from a Developer. She told me that she and another guy (both of them less that 2 years experience in the company) are going to set up a coding group. This group will work on building skills but also they could take a backlog item etc etc.

She thanked me and her manager for support and encouragement and inspiration.

It really made my evening.

It reinforced in me the thought that when you don’t do things out of obligation, for yourself, for attention, and “visibility”,  but rather when you do things from the heart and talk about what YOU really believe in you create a better connection with people.

.. I finally felt that I made a difference, A Real Difference… Its a wonderful feeling

Sometimes just being completely open and vulnerable and honest with people is all thats needed.

If you are interested to hear more of this: check out some of the people who inspire me:

@scott_elumn8 – Scott Mabry.

@ChristopherAver – Christopher Avery

@BreneBrown – BreneBrown in particular her TED talk on Vulnerability.

@WoodyZuill – Woody Zuill

 

 

 

We’re looking for Consensus Not Agreement

Our leadership team entered a very interesting discussion last week during a workshop.

We were talking about the vision we wrote and created over a year ago for our organisation and had a workshop around what it meant and still means for all of us.

It was a great and fun  discussion and it ignited some real energy with the result that we saw that our vision needs an update. However one particular item came up around agreement over the vision, that as a team we must have agreement, otherwise there is a risk we run over someone who does not agree.

I had trouble with this because it is next to near impossible for a group of people to Agree on everything all the time … but we must move forward with issues rather than discuss, discuss discuss.

The other side of course is that if you dont have agreement the majority beat up the minority and the minority go very quiet and then this is seen as “consent”.

I live in Sweden and the Swedes are renowed for their careful analysis and cautious approach. They even joked about it at the half time show of the Eurovision Song contest in 2013. (for those with time the part I am referring to in particular starts at 1:03 mins)

What concerns me is that we err on the side of caution too much and enter a state of Analysis Paralysis. My approach ( which could be seen as forceful is …. “do we know enough to take a step? … ok then lets try and reflect … If we’re wrong we can fix it”

But not eveyone is like me and how do you deal with this dynamic in a team? How do you really ensure that every voice is heard.

I was reminded of Christopher Averys book. “Team work is an individual Skill”. Page 98

Consensus – Here Christopher Avery speaks about why its important for a High Performing team.

Consensus isnt about being nice. Its the high octane fuel for team direction and energy

He even offers help with creating a “consensus Continuum” for your team and it goes like this:

When someone makes a proposal that affects eveyone in the team, poll each member for their level of agreement

1. Unqualified Yes. Move Forward.

2. Perfectly acceptable. Move Forward.

3. I can live with the decision of the group. Move Forward.

4. I trust the group and will not block this decision, but I need to register my disagreement. Move Forward.

5. I think more work is needed before deciding. Do Not Move Forward.

6. I do not agree and feel the need to stand in the way of this decision. Do Not Move Forward.

Consensus is 100% agreement to move forward together.

Without consensus a team will lack direction. Without consensus your team runs the risk of having low commitment on actions.

So its consensus not agreement we are after. Thanks Christopher Avery.

 

What a line managers job is – up front and center!!

I had the pleasure of helping out with the facilitation of a hackathon at our regular Learning day (#WMRlearning Day) yesterday.

We started out small by just arranging an 8hr hackathon – start at 10am and finish at 6pm (ish). We were very nervous for about 3 mins when the main conference hall for our learning day was empty but slowly about 19-20 people showed up.

After the pitching session we had 4 clear ideas.

1. HAL 2000 – making a voice interface on your laptop

2. A conference room locator (interactive map)

3. A FriendShare APP where you could simultaneously play the same song among friends (over spotify)

4. An automated interface update generator using an eclipse plugin.

Small but promising- everyone seemed  to be commited and engaged to come back at 17:30 and show what they had achieved.

We observed that the newer engineers gravitated towards the cooler suggestions like the FriendShare idea and HAL2000.

There was a really good mix of high school interns, new employees, systems expertise, test expertise and subsytem product guardians.

During the day we checked in on each of the teams to see how things were going – all seemed well except for 1 major impediment where a team were not allowed to get hold of the conference room maps of the building. An impediment that did not stop them.

17:30 came and all reassembled (however some we had to call a few times – they said they just needed “5 for minutes”!! ). Everyone had smiles on their faces and without even being asked the first team started demoing their work.

Without going in to too much detail, noone was able to finish their task completely but they still had great fun presenting what they had done. The enthusiasm and engagement was infectious.

We laughed, we giggled we asked how much they learned, would they continue with the idea, would they do it again.? All answers were enthusiastic, positive and HAPPY.

When the hackathon ended those left in the room reflected that we had not seen such JOY in a long long time and Asked ourselves why we couldnt see this sort of enthusiasm everyday.?

Isnt this exactly what our job as line managers is? Make it so that people are happy to come to work, that they enjoy themselves and feel that they want to contribute and make things work despite obstacles and impediments.

I had been following what Jurgen Appelo was stating in his Management 3.0 and his “Happy Melly” ….. But there it was right in front of me ….. It was quiet remarkable so I wanted to share.

Can we Really “deploy” Toyota Kata in Software Development?

I have been struggling with this for a few months now. I tried the PDCA Toyota Kata with my team and it really was so very very akward and seemed so unnatural that it became very contrived and died out very quickly.

My colleagues are using it and talk it up a lot but when I talk to individuals in their teams they mention “hmmmm its not really fitting in with Thought work”

I spoke to our In house Agile coach and he suggested we define a Kata for ourselves …. Yes nice idea  – where do I start?

I put my worrying and procrastinating aside for a while as I was getting nowhere.

But look what I have found …

http://blog.crisp.se/2013/05/14/jimmyjanlen/improvement-theme-simple-and-practical-toyota-kata

I just loved it and it gave me renewed energy. THIS seems so practical and something the teams will be much more comfortable doing. It seems so simple. I will try it ( and of course report back 🙂 )

Thank you (as always) Crisp!

Continuous Deployment – But what does it really mean?

firstlinemanager

So here we are, over 2 years since Ericsson started its transformation to a Agile/Lean company and we will now start deploying to a customer in the U.S. every 3 weeks.

“HOOO HAAAW” As AlPacino would say! This is really exciting, why? Because now instead of talking the talk we now have to walk the walk.

In the two years since we started out on this journey, we have achieved an awful lot but we were starting to hit the glass ceiling of old style Program/Project Management Thinking and it started to become a little demotivating and frustrating ( for both the teams and lower level management).

But now there is an opportunity. We have to start deploying every 3 weeks and in order to do this we MUST change how we plan and develop our features and manage our product,… there is no hiding – we are very exposed…

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Continuous Deployment – But what does it really mean?

So here we are, over 2 years since Ericsson started its transformation to a Agile/Lean company and we will now start deploying to a customer in the U.S. every 3 weeks.

“HOOO HAAAW” As AlPacino would say! This is really exciting, why? Because now instead of talking the talk we now have to walk the walk.

In the two years since we started out on this journey, we have achieved an awful lot but we were starting to hit the glass ceiling of old style Program/Project Management Thinking and it started to become a little demotivating and frustrating ( for both the teams and lower level management).

But now there is an opportunity. We have to start deploying every 3 weeks and in order to do this we MUST change how we plan and develop our features and manage our product,… there is no hiding – we are very exposed. So what does this mean for a line manager of Cross Functional Teams.
Heres where we “earn our crust”.

You see, the teams have absorbed the most change, have “tried” the most, have been affected the most and have grown the most …. and now we turn it up a notch.Although its easy for me as a line manager to say – “well this is whats its about” … we need to show whats its about.

Heres how we are trying to do it in Ericsson:

Our new WCDMA organisation is split in to Programs instead of Departments and these programs are now the new silos.

  • Our Cross Functional ( Feature development) Teams are housed in the Product Developement program  (PD)
  • Our Real Network Environment Test Expertise and Continuous Integration development is housed in Continuous Integration Program (CI)
  • and our Product Maintenance has its own program (PLM)

We have more programs but these are the main ones to illustrate the point.

Now bring FLOW discussions in to this program set up and what do you get? …. everyone looking at their own program and finding ways to be better. This is NOT flow this is sub-optimisation.

We (PD Line Managers) started out having numerous whiteboard sessions to help people discuss the issue of flow

OneProductView

We have since polished it and it now looks like this.

OneProductView(SMA) This is what we line managers use in most of our meetings to help us make the right decisions, help people see what we are trying to achieve – the result being we really try to focus on the system and not just “Our” teams.

Exciting Times!